Lead, don’t follow: Cameron should not be stoking fears about immigration

The Prime Minister’s agenda is clear: immigration is replacing the NHS as Britain’s central neurosis

Share

There is much cause to look askance at David Cameron’s plans to curb the benefits available to new migrants. Not because the measures themselves are inappropriate. It is not unreasonable to minimise the temptations of Britain’s welfare and healthcare provisions. A three-month delay on claiming out-of-work support, and a six-month limit on payments unless there is a “genuine” prospect of a job, are both justifiable. Even the proposal that homeless migrants be deported is not without merit, although enforcement will have to be closely monitored.

What is troubling, though, is that the changes are being presented as a response to the possible “influx” from Bulgaria and Romania in January, when transitional restrictions imposed when the two countries joined the EU are lifted.

The Prime Minister’s agenda is clear. With immigration replacing the NHS as Britain’s central neurosis, and with the UK Independence Party increasingly rampant on the political right, Mr Cameron hopes for a quick win with the public. But his job is to lead, not merely to follow.

Not only is there, for every analysis anticipating a flood of migrants in the new year, another predicting the merest trickle; the Coalition’s newly toughened stance can only be effective at the margins in any event. The overwhelming majority of migrants come to Britain in order to work, and do so. They will – rightly – be unaffected. Add to that the fact that only a few of the new rules will be in place by January, while others may yet prove contrary to EU law, and it is difficult to avoid the sense of a strategy rushed through to counter today’s headlines.

With feelings running high, and real concern about everything from cultural integration to the pressure on public services, there is a debate to be had about immigration. But it must be one that is informed by fact rather than hysteria. For all the scaremongering over benefits tourism (of which there is little), consistent evidence that migration has been a net positive for Britain is being drowned out. Mr Cameron’s reforms are no bad thing in themselves. But by setting them so firmly in the context of Bulgaria and Romania, he is fanning the flames of misconception when he should be dampening them.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
 

My shameful failure to live up to the spirit of Christmas

Howard Jacobson
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all